Personal Injury Claim Depositions
Part of the dirty work of litigation is having to go through depositions. As I explain that to my daughter, a deposition is a meeting where attorneys try to catch other attorney’s clients in telling lies or not knowing what they’re talking about while their attorney watches and tries to stop them. It’s really dumb!
But it’s part of what we do. When my clients are deposed, generally I give them the following guidelines to help them understand how to respond.
Tell the truth
Answer ONLY the question you are ASKED
- Do not volunteer extras; just answer what you are asked
- Think before you speak. A short pause to gather your thoughts and make sure you understand the question and your answer is fine
Answer ONLY when you understand the question
- Make sure you understand what they are asking for, and then answer ONLY what you are asked
You can only testify to what you know
- “I don’t know” is a completely acceptable answer
- If you don’t know, don’t guess or try to be helpful in a response
Be careful how you answer
- Simple answers are best: “Yes”, “No”, “I don’t know.” Are the best answers
- Characterizing your answer with words like “honestly,” or “to tell the truth” are NOT acceptable
- Don’t adopt the questioner’s opinion; listen to how the question is asked
- When you have finished the answer, be quiet. DON’T feel the need to fill in silence
- Watch compound questions
- If you are asked about a document, don’t comment on it until you read it, then answer carefully
Breaks are fine
- If you need a break for any reason, you can ask for one
I can go off the record/you cannot
- Lawyers may chat, and that doesn’t necessarily mean anything
- EVERYTHING you say can be used against you
If I object, stop talking until I give you instructions
- Objections are for lawyers. Just hang out until I tell you to talk again
No one is perfect
- They will get some points…it’s fine
- If you are caught in an inconsistency don’t collapse. Just deal with questions one by one
- Everyone makes mistakes. Don’t get upset
As I think about it, these guidelines aren’t a crazy way to answer any questions from people that aren’t your friends. Try it out in real life and see how it works.
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